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Shushtarī’s Treatise on the Limits of Theology and Sufism: Discursive Knowledge (ʿilm), Direct Recognition (maʿrifa), and Mystical Realization (taḥqīq) in al-Risāla al-Quṣāriyya

Divinity School, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
Religions 2020, 11(5), 226; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11050226
Received: 16 January 2020 / Revised: 14 April 2020 / Accepted: 15 April 2020 / Published: 2 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mysticism and Spirituality in Medieval Spain)
Abū l-Ḥasan al-Shushtarī’s (d. 668/1269) heretofore unedited and unstudied treatise, “On the Limits [of Theology and Sufism]” (R. al-Quṣāriyya) is a succinct account of the celebrated Andalusī Sufi poetabstract’s understanding of the relationship between discursive knowledge (ʿilm) of the rational Ashʿarite theologians, direct and unitive recognition (maʿrifa) of the Sufis, and verified knowledge (taḥqīq) of the monist Realizers. Following a broad discussion of the major trends in Sufism that form the background out of which Shushtarī emerges, this article analyzes the Quṣāriyya and presents a full English translation and Arabic edition of this text. The Quṣāriyya is a treatise on epistemology that was written in order to provide guidance to a disciple on how to respond to accusations of doctrinal heresy and deviation from the revealed Law. As such, it offers a window into Shushtarī’s thought as well as his understanding of his own place within the 7th/13th century Islamic intellectual tradition. The hierarchy of knowledge that he outlines represents an early response to the growing epistemological debates between what may be called “monotheist Ashʿarites,” “monist-inclined Sufis,” and fully fledged “monist Realizers.” The differences between these three perspectives lie in how each understands God’s bestowal of existence (ījād) and, consequently, the ontological status of the created realm. The Ashʿarites are “monotheists” because they inhabit an atomistic creation that actually exists by virtue of God’s existentiating command. For them, God transcends creation, and creation proves the existence of a transcendent Creator. The Sufis, for their part, incline toward the monists for whom God is the sole Reality, and for whom all else is nonexistent (ʿadam). However, they begin by affirming the logic of the Ashʿarite monotheist paradigm, and as they acquire direct recognition of God through spiritual purification, they assert that the Creator proves the existence of creation, because the latter is an “empty tent” sustained by the divine command. Finally, the “monist” Realizer maintains that nothing other than God exists. Having realized the truths that the theologians speculate about and that the Sufis begin to experience, the Realizers can engage, affirm, and refute both groups at their respective levels without committing to the cosmological doctrines of Ashʿarism, the ontological categories of Avicennan philosophy, or even the Sufi conception of the spiritual path to God. View Full-Text
Keywords: Al-Andalus; Mamlūk; Sufism; mysticism; Ashʿarism; theology; monism; monotheism; realization (taḥqīq); Islamic epistemology Al-Andalus; Mamlūk; Sufism; mysticism; Ashʿarism; theology; monism; monotheism; realization (taḥqīq); Islamic epistemology
MDPI and ACS Style

Casewit, Y. Shushtarī’s Treatise on the Limits of Theology and Sufism: Discursive Knowledge (ʿilm), Direct Recognition (maʿrifa), and Mystical Realization (taḥqīq) in al-Risāla al-Quṣāriyya. Religions 2020, 11, 226.

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